Sunday, November 23, 2008

Aeros v. Worcester Sharks - Game 17

Ahh, I wondered when the game would come where the tide would turn among Aeros fandom. In an interesting bit of organizational sychronicity, it came the same night as it did in Minnesota. And for both teams it's something along the lines of "ZOMG! WTF CAN'T WE SCORE????"

With the Wild, I think the concern is frighteningly legitimate. With the Aeros, I think the personnel is there to fix the problem, but the chemistry isn't. And according to Troy Ward, it is a bit slower in coming than they'd hoped. Both Ward and Mitch Love told Joe O'Donnell after the game that players, and in particular the "scorers," are not on the same page.

But I guess I'm not ready to pull out the razor blade just yet. There were some good things happening in this game. The Aeros were slow of foot out of the gate but after the first power play, had knocked the rust off and found their legs. From there, the energy level was impressive and the guys were playing good hockey, knowing where their teammates were on the ice, passing crisply and moving the puck under control.

The first Sharks goal was flukey, hitting Brust's blocker and bouncing straight up and over his head and into the net. Fortunately, it didn't phase the Aeros and they came back with a 5 on 3 power play goal from Noreau a little over a minute later. It was a pretty one, too. The Sharks gave Max all day to fake a shot, which froze the goalie, and then he fired it right in from the high slot.

I didn't catch the offense that started it, but Love and Moore dropped the mitts and had a good, well-matched fight. Love had the edge with the take-down. Dude can seriously take a punch, too. Looked like Moore got a couple of solid shots on him and Mitch just kept handing it back.

The first period ended with a 1-1 score and 9-9 shots, and the period absolutely felt like it. The evenness continued into the second. The Aeros came out hitting hard and fired up, looking like they felt like they had it. And just to confirm it, 5 minutes in, Lundbohm deflected an Insana shot from the point past the Shark's goalie, putting them in the lead.

Things kinda started looking out of sorts here. There was some extracurricular stuff going on by John Scott. He tripped a Sharks player who was headed to the bench. So, in retaliation, one of the Sharks players slashed an Aeros player as he was coming off the bench. Fortunately, the refs only saw the Shark's trip, so they got the penalty (which the Aeros did nothing with). And he was jawing with McLaren. And Love was jawing with Demers. And Brusty looked jumpy. Entertaining stuff but indicated to me that the team was losing their focus a bit.

And the Sharks were utterly unphased, keeping up the same pace until 9 minutes later, while Olvecky was serving a too many men penalty, they scored again, evening up the game.

The back and forth penalties continued into the third and the Sharks seemed to be getting stronger. Aeros were doing more dumping and chasing and the power play couldn't get any traction.

And then the clouds parted, angels sang, and John Scott got his first goal of the season! He was all alone in the high slot when Olvecky passed the puck out from beside the net and he just blasted it in. One thing you don't get to see much is John Scott celebrating his goals, but it's worth the wait. He was damn happy and so was the team. It's a big deal when the big man gets a goal.

But things were still off the rails and it showed when the Aeros found themselves in a 5 on 3 power play and let the Sharks breakaway for a shorthanded goal that hearkend back to the stomach-turning shootout last Sunday.

Then Scott got sent to the box with a hooking call and the Sharks scored the go-ahead goal with 1 second left on the penalty. It was clear, from here, that the Aeros bench was deflated. They spent the rest of the game fighting it and it just wasn't going to happen. Everyone was going a different direction and the cohesiveness, patience, and confidence earlier in the game was gone.

Constantine pulled Brust with a minute and a half left and the Sharks sealed the deal with an empty netter ending it 5-3

Some thoughts:

Brusty is looking bad in general, but is looking particlarly abysmal one-on-one. Time for him to man the door for a while. Go here and check out Fred's photos. Sorry, but that looks like a big ol' flinch to me in the photo with his eyes closed. Yeesh. Tough times for #33 and mental strength doesn't strike me as his forte, so it concerns me some.

I thought Morten Madsen had a good, engaged game and was very strong in man-on-man battles, but he and Hamilton were both -3 on the night. As much as people bitch about Scott, he was the team high +2. Though his hooking penalty negates that to some degree.

My impression from the post game interviews done by Joe O'Donnell is that there's a disconnect with the scorers on the team. The chemistry between them isn't developing as well or as quickly as the team had hoped and there are some good individual efforts going on, but not enough of a team effort on offense. I think they're gonna get there, though. What was nice to hear from Coach Ward was how much character he feels there is in that room and that the coaches really don't have to say much for this team to understand what they need to bring this afternoon against Hamilton.

My only disappointment is that they didn't win for the HUGE crowd that showed up last night for the first bobblehead give-away and military appreciation night. But for the casual fan, there was plenty going on and it was not boring hockey by any means. Hopefully that's enough to get them back for a few more games. It sure is more fun with bigger crowds.

Scratches were Rogers, Kassian, and Falk.

Scott got the third star.

Back again against Hamilton Bulldogs at 5:05 today, possibly with defenseman Tomas Mojzis among the ranks, as he was sent down by the Wild last night and flew in this morning.


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